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Herps in Movies
 
Frogs (1972)
 
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
 
 
  Frogs  
"It's the day that Nature strikes back!"
"Today the pond! Tomorrow the world!
"Cold green skin against soft, warm flesh! … a croak … a scream"

Nature has really run amock in this environmental horror story. It was part of a wave of natural horror movies (aka creature features) that swarmed the drive-ins and grindhouses in the 1970s, a period that brought us Piranha, Alligator, Grizzly, Empire of the Ants, The Swarm, Killer Bees, Willard, Ben, Orca, Squirm, and of course, Jaws, which legitimized the genre and probably made as much money as all the others combined. This one was a hit, though, making back ten times it's low budget. It

This was one of the first of the many "eco-horror" movies made in the 1970s, too. And it contributed some eco-horror to Florida, too. According to an IMDB Trivia note, many of the frogs and imported toads used in the movie escaped into the wild during production. (Most of the frogs we see in this movie are Cane Toads, which are not native to Florida. Since this movie was made, Cane toads have become a terribly invasive species in Australia, and in Hawaii and other parts of the world, also.)

The premise is that spoiled rich people living on an island in Florida are polluting the environment, so the animals fight back. Even though the movie is titled "Frogs," and the lurid poster shows a gigantic frog eating a human, the frogs are normal-sized and they don't do most of the killing, but they are a constant ominous presence in the movie. They seem to be on the ground everywhere, and we continually see close-ups of them as if they are watching other animals kill the selfish humans. The killer creatures are mostly snakes, but they include a few lizards, a turtle, an alligator, and a few tarantulas.

There is a lot of good close-up animal photography in this movie. So many movies don't have the right lenses or the skill to get good close-up shots, so I appreciate that this one does. There are a few blurry library shots of venomous snakes swimming, but most of the animals appear to have been filmed for the movie. I also appreciate that most of the creatures we see are real live animals, instead of a mix of props and live animals.

At the end of the movie, when people escape the island to the mainland, we learn that the rich people and their servants who we have been watching are not the only people who have disappeared. People on the mainland are missing, also. This leaves us with the impression that the animals are taking over the world.

You can watch trailers for the movie on YouTube: Trailer; TV Trailer.

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FROGS

Under the opening credits, we see Sam Elliot's character paddling a canoe and taking pictures of wildlife, including a tegu, a gecko, a toad, and a corn snake crawling on a branch. Then he takes pictures of garbage in the water and pollution flowing from pipes. When a couple in a speedboat overturn his canoe, they take him back to a mansion owned by a rich man who is polluting the water and spraying poisons to kill animals.

Strange things are happening on the estate - a gardener is found dead with snakes and toads crawling all over his corpse after he sprayed poison to kill the frogs that bothered the rich people with their noise. The grassy mansion grounds are also covered with hopping toads. The toads spoil an outdoor family birthday party by crawling over everything in the yard, including a large American flag cake. (Oh, the symbolism.) In the end they finally smash the windows of the main house and overrun the rich man's den full of taxidermied animals. He drops to the floor then they crawl all over him. Apparently he was scared to death, or maybe he just laughed to death at the absurdity of the movie we just watched.

To the credit of the filmmakers, the frogs and toads we see in the movie are all species that could be found in Florida. Most of them are Cane Toads, but there are a few Leopard Frogs also thrown in at the end. (Unfortunately, they all make the sounds of Pacific Treefrogs, because that's what frogs always sound like in the movies. Cane Toads make a trilling sound, and leopard frogs make a chuckling sound, but if the audience heard those sounds, sadly, they wouldn't understand what they are hearing.) As I said above, Cane Toads are not native to Florida, but they can be very abundant in the southern part of the state. I've seen dozens of them out on grassy lawns at night near Okeechobee - but fortunately none of them tried to kill me. They probably missed this movie.

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SNAKES

We see a lot of different species of live snakes in the movie, many are just background scenery, but some of them actively participate in the human killing, chasing and falling on people to kill them.

When the family goes into their dining room for dinner, a yellow ratsnake is dangling from a chandelier above the table. The patriarch pulls out a revolver and shoots the snake, then orders the butler to remove it.

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A woman hunting butterflies is so terrified by snakes dangling from trees and bushes and a rattlesnake on the ground, that she drops her butterfly net and runs off in a panic, where she is frightened by more toads and alligators and several more snakes until she falls into a pool of water where she is attacked by leeches. She tears the leeches off her flesh, leaving bloody marks, then somehow wanders back to her butterfly net. When she falls down next to the net there's a rattlesnake on it that strikes at her, biting her on the arm. In one of the fastest snake deaths on film, she immediately falls to the ground, dead. Or maybe it was the leeches. Take it from me, there's nothing worse than leeches crawling all over you.

Interestinly, in the trailer for the movie, the woman sinks into quicksand, but in the movie she dies by rattlesnake bite.

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We see a man jump in the water and swim frantically to get away from some venomous snakes that are chasing him. He finally makes it to a boat but before he can climb in we see agony in his face and blood all over his hand as he slides back into the water, apparently snake-bit to death.


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When Sam Elliot's character tries to escape with a woman and two boys in a canoe, the canoe gets stuck under a tree. He tears his shirt off (for the ladies watching ) and gets in the water, only to have a large black snake drop on him. He wrestles with the snake and finally throws it away from the canoe. But then a bunch of Cottonmouths swim up to him, so he grabs a paddle and starts whacking them furiously, until all the snakes are sufficiently whacked.

Several different species of live snakes were used in the movie, mostly as scenery. Congratulations go to the filmmakers for using native species that could actually be found in Florida, where the movie takes place and was filmed. Most movies, low budget or high, don't bother with that kind of accuracy, it seems like they just rent whatever snakes are available from the animal suppliers. We see Cottonmouths, Indigo snakes, Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes, Ratsnakes, a Corn Snake, and Kingsnakes. When the woman is bitten by the rattlesnake, it is very obvious that the snake strikes at and bites a fake arm and hand. It appears that they used a real Indigo Snake for Elliot to wrestle and throw, but it could have been a prop, too, or a mix of the two. The venomous snakes we see crawling and swimming in the water are never seen in the same frame with an actor, so they were obviously shot at another time and place, which is typical and understandable.

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LIZARDS

We see a number of lizards in the movie, mostly as background, including large Black Tegus, some Green Anoles, and Tokay Geckos. (It's interesting that today (2018) wild Black Tegus have just become another invasive lizard species in Florida.) But those pesky tegus do conspire to kill at least one person. We see a man go inside a greenhouse. Inside, Black Tegus knock over jars full of some kind of liquid poison, creating a toxic gas that asphyxiates him. We see his dead body slumped over covered with lizards - Green Anoles and Tokay Geckos.

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TURTLES

After watching her husband killed in the water by venomous snakes, a woman screams in terror when she sees a large Alligator Snapping Turtle swimming very slowly towards her. She could have easily just walked onto the shore to escape it, but like any good horror movie scream queen, she just stands there screeching until the turtle kills her. Shortly afterwards we see her corpse lying in the water while crabs and the turtle eat her.

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ALLIGATORS

We see a few random alligators throughout the movie that are just an ominous presence, but there is one scene with a killer alligator.

A man walks through the woods as a large alligator follows him. When he finally sees it, he falls into the water and wrestles the alligator untill he is killed and dragged away by the gator.

A real alligator was used in the scene with the man, and we see a stunt man actually wrestling with a live alligator in the shot, but several times you can see the line of black tape that was wrapped around the alligator's mouth to keep it from biting him.